Ch07 - 7 CHAPTER PREVIEW States of Consciousness...

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CHAPTER PREVIEW Consciousness is our awareness of ourselves and our environment. Conscious information pro- cessing enables us to exercise control and to communicate our mental states to others. Beneath the surface, unconscious processing occurs simultaneously on many parallel tracks. Our daily schedule of waking and sleeping is governed by a biological clock known as circa- dian rhythm. Our sleep also follows a repeating cycle. Awakening people during REM sleep yields predictable “dreamlike” reports that are mostly of ordinary events. Freud’s view that dreams can be traced back to erotic wishes is giving way to newer theories, for example, that dreams help us process information and fix it in memory or that dreams erupt from neural activity. Studies of hypnosis indicate that, although hypnotic procedures may facilitate recall, the hyp- notist’s beliefs frequently work their way into subjects’ recollections. Hypnosis can be at least temporarily therapeutic and has the potential of bringing significant pain relief. Hypnosis may be an extension both of normal principles of social influence and of everyday splits in consciousness. Psychoactive drugs also alter consciousness. Depressants act by depressing neural functioning. Although their effects are pleasurable, they impair memory and self-awareness and may have other physical consequences. Stimulants act at the synapses by influencing the brain’s neurotrans- mitters. Their effects depend on dosage and the user’s personality and expectations. Hallucinogens can distort judgment of time and can alter sensations and perceptions. A number of those who survive a brush with death later recall visionary experiences. Some scientists point out that such near-death experiences closely parallel reports of hallucinations. CHAPTER GUIDE Exercise: Fact or Falsehood? Consciousness and Information Processing Videos: Discovering Psychology, Updated Edition: The Mind Awake and Asleep; Discovering Psychology, Updated Edition: The Mind Hidden and Divided Lecture: Automatic Processing Project: A Penny for Your Thoughts 47 States of Consciousness 7 :
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1. Discuss the history of psychology’s study of consciousness, and contrast conscious and unconscious information processing. Psychology began as the study of consciousness, our awareness of ourselves and our environment. But the difficulty of scientifically studying consciousness led many psychologists to turn to direct observations of behavior, and by the middle of the twentieth century psychology was defined as the science of behavior. By 1960, mental concepts began to reenter psychology, and today, investi- gating states of mind is again one of psychology’s pursuits. Advances in neuroscience made it pos- sible to relate brain activity to various mental states—waking, sleeping, dreaming.
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